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Browser Security Best For Our Protection

My first experience with browser security happened while searching for some free software utilities. I was downloading trial software and never knew what hit me.

The next thing I know, I’ve got a massive, ugly, toolbar, my system is crawling like a man crossing the desert in search of water, and weird pop up messages begin showing up everywhere asking, “Do you wanna buy something, do you wanna buy something?”

I’d been infected and I knew it.

One of things I didn’t understand was how just visiting a web site could do this. I hadn’t downloaded anything and I don’t think I even clicked on any links at that point. I had antivirus/antispyware software, so how did it happen?

Well, the technical details aren’t that interesting to most people but basically a program runs that installs nasties on your computer in the background without any evidence that it’s happening. As soon as you visit the site, the gears start turning and anti-malware software doesn’t always catch it.

A lot of people don’t realize that modern browsers are chock full of security settings and technologies that help prevent these drive by installations. Today’s browsers include:

Security settings for individual web sites

Privacy settings for individual web sites

Settings for tons of individual components of web sites like cookies, javascript, and browser add-ons.

Pop up blockers

Phishing web site blocking

Drive by malware detection before the page is displayed

And much more

One often neglected task in Internet security is to set up your browser settings for maximum protection. Browsers are generally set up with default settings that sacrifice security for user experience. Depending on your choices, you may give up some of that user experience for security, but it may be worth it if you really want to be safe.

One of the best features of Mozilla’s Firefox browser is the anti-phishing and malware protection built right in. The browser checks every page you visit against a list of known phishing or spoofing web sites and displays a message warning you if one is found. You can ignore the warning and go anyway if you know for sure that it’s safe but that’s risky.

One of the web sites that track these bad guys is phishtrack: http://www.dslreports.com/phishtrack?pid=35472&urls=1.

You can click on a link on the left column to do a bit of reading about an individual site. If you browse to the bad site, Firefox will alert you to go no further.

You can test your Firefox browser by going here: http://en-us.www.mozilla.com/firefox/its-an-attack.html. Don’t worry, it’s safe.

By the way, I recommend Firefox over Internet Explorer to maximize browser security if for no other reason than it doesn’t use Microsoft’s ActiveX controls. Many malware programs exploit ActiveX to infect your system and little is done in IE to stop it.

If you really want to be safe, you’re browser security and privacy settings should be adjusted. I could go through the whole list of changes here but there’s an easy tutorial from our friends at cert.org. You can browse to this page and follow the steps to ensure the safest browser settings:

Once you’ve done this, you’ll be as safe as you can be assuming you’ve got your security suite installed and you practice good browsing habits. There are three very important rules of Internet security that you must follow in addition to setting things up correctly:

Never download software from sites you don’t trust. It’s always better to go to the software maker’s own web site to download their products.

Turn on your system’s and web browser’s auto-update features and set them to update frequently. Stay ahead of the curve as much as possible. New malware is released into the Net every second.

Never open attachments to emails from someone you don’t know. Heck, even if you do know them, they could unknowingly have sent you an infected attachment. Or, if they got a virus, it could have mailed itself to everyone in their address book so be wary.

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